MINISTER FOR TRADE REPUBLIC OF KOREA
As Asia-Pacific countries sharing common values, Korea and Australia have enjoyed a successful and deepening relationship over the past century. The first contact between the two countries dates back to the late 19th century, when Australian missionaries came to Korea. The relationship was further strengthened when more than 17,000 Australian troops were sent to Korea to fight for freedom during the Korean War. With the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1961, the bilateral relationship was geared into a higher level in various fields.
Korea and Australia share strategic interests both in the Asia-Pacific region and around the world. Both countries have made significant contributions to global and regional security and stability, as well as the regional integration of Asia-Pacific economies. Their economic relations have also been growing steadily through the complementary nature between the two countries. Korea is a key market for Australia’s energy resources and education services, while Australia is a major market for Korea’s automobiles, electronic and home appliances and refined petroleum. It is encouraging that throughout the Global Financial Crisis, the economic and trade relations remained strong: in 2010, Korea’s exports to Australia increased by 26.7 per cent to reach US$ 6.6 billion, while Australia also saw its exports to Korea increase by 38.6 per cent, reaching US$ 20.5 billion. Korea, which is Australia’s fourth-largest trading partner after China, Japan, and India, is increasing its investment in Australia, notably in mining, finance and real estate.
“Both countries have made significant contributions to global and regional security and stability, as well as the regional integration of Asia-Pacific economies”
Korea and Australia are now working towards the completion of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which will serve as another strong pillar to expand their cooperative partnership. Once enabled by the FTA, reasonably priced high-quality goods will provide the consumers of both countries with a wider range of choices, and increases in trade in services and investment will promote exchanges in persons and technology. This will, in turn, increase competitiveness and improve business systems. Furthermore, cooperation will be strengthened in many areas such as agriculture and energy, including ‘green energy’ industries, within the framework of the Agreement. With its natural resources and advanced agricultural technology, Australia is one of the most attractive partners for Korea in these aspects.
The Korea-Australia FTA will also cover the common values shared by the two countries, including the protection of the environment and labour rights, as manifested in many parts of the FTA. At the same time, the Agreement will also promote the mutual understanding of culture and society, as a protocol on audiovisual co-production is set to achieve.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries, and has therefore been designated as the ‘Year of Friendship’. With shared values of liberal democracy, market economy, and respect for human rights, the cooperative partnership between Korea and Australia will surely thrive. The Korea-Australia FTA, which both sides aim to conclude within this year, will act as a comprehensive instrument to further renew and upgrade the splendid relationship.